Throughout Kansas, selection of wheat varieties for planting this fall is underway, with seeding set to commence in just a few weeks.

Farmers will plant at least 10 million bushels of wheat seed this fall, and the Plant Variety Protection Act covers almost all of them.

The PVPA allows farmers to grow and keep seed of protected varieties for use on their own farm, said Dusti Fritz, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat. However, farmers cannot sell or trade protected varieties to another farmer, unless authorized to do so by the Kansas Crop Improvement Association.

“The PVPA protects the integrity of the commercial wheat seed business by guaranteeing farmers access to top-quality, certified wheat seed,” Fritz said. “Abiding by the PVPA guarantees wheat variety developers that they will receive a return on their investment and can continue to invest in new and improved varieties. Furthermore, abiding the PVPA is federal law.”

Wheat breeders are beefing up PVPA enforcement efforts. For instance, earlier this year a Hoxie farmer was found guilty of PVPA violation by illegally selling Jagalene wheat for seed.

He settled the case by paying a $25,000 fine to AgriPro, the company that developed Jagalene. Such action is called “brown bagging,” and hurts not only the company whose research and development money went into the new variety, but the farmer who buys the seed. AgriPro has pursued several such cases in the past decade, and will continue to protect its investment in wheat research. The law allows for prosecution of all parties involved in the transaction, including the seller, buyer and cleaner/conditioner.

“We take an aggressive stand against brown bagging by dedicating efforts and funding to prevent this theft. Our aggressive stance helps keep investment flowing into wheat research,” said Greg McCormack, regional manager for AgriPro Wheat.

In order for a company or university to invest millions of dollars in wheat research, it must be able to protect its property rights. That’s what the PVPA is all about.

“The only way to ensure a continuing supply of new, superior wheat varieties is to allow the breeder or developer of these varieties to recoup and re-invest in variety development. Violators of PVPA and patent laws not only hurt the seed company, they cheat the producers who lawfully buy certified seed and support these breeding programs,” said Jim Sipes, a Manter farmer and president of Agseco.

The PVPA states that protected varieties can only be sold as a class of certified seed by authorized seed growers and dealers. These businesses pay a royalty that flows back to the researcher, helping to fund new research and development. Brown baggers and those who buy brown-bagged are getting a free ride, so to speak.

The Kansas Crop Improvement Association has a list of approved conditioners and seed companies through which certified seed can be bought. Log onto www.kscrop.org, e-mail kscrop@kansas.net or call 785-532-6118 for more information.

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